Emergence

If I could wake up in a different place, at a different time, could I wake up as a different person?

I've had that line from Fight Club (the book) banging around my head all evening. (The line from Fight Club (the movie) isn't so bad either.) Around and around in circles. Bouncing from one side to the other, back and back again. What does it mean?

Caterpillars spin a cocoon when they're about to go into their pupal stage. They stay in their cocoon then emerge, eventually, as something entirely different—something they were not, but something they were supposed to be.

It's one of a thousand overwrought metaphors we can rely on as we get to the end of the pandemic.

That first line, though—back and forth, like a clapper striking the side of a bell.

So much talk about getting back to normal, but I don't know about that. Normal is broken. Anyway, when I emerge from the cocoon, I want to be better than normal. I want to be like the narrator in Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions—Vonnegut, himself—metaphorically throwing things over his shoulder.

I think I am trying to clear my head of all the junk in there — the assholes, the flags, the underpants. Yes — there is a picture in this book of underpants. I’m throwing out characters from my other books, too. I’m not going to put on any more puppet shows.

"Every day is a new day" is a nice thing to say. I believe it, I just don't believe it. Some of the baggage we carry around we can throw out, but some of the baggage we carry isn't baggage—it is us, ourselves. Every day we wake up and we carry ourselves around. It's inevitable, really. I'm not sure what the alternative is.

Emergence, though, is a transformation. Waking up as something different than when you went to sleep. Waking up as something different than when you spun your cocoon. There are many constraints in the world, and also many choices. The choices are constrained and the constraints are uncertain. You can't wake up as a different person every day. But some days you can. You have free will, just not a lot of it. When we emerge, let's see how much we've got.

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